Focused on the Future of Optical Solutions
The impatient among us are bound by a deep distrust of anything that happens at a glacial pace. Take watching paint dry for instance. ‘Why would anyone do that anyway?’ I hear you say. Well, you’d be surprised.
Watching paint dry turns out to be a rather specialized field and InterTest, Inc. is leading the way. This optical instrument manufacturer was surprised when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC approached it to create a camera for their development laboratory in Michigan that would literally track the paint drying process. The project was hugely successful and the company came back for more. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Bill Habermann, President; Will Habermann, Marketing Executive; and Morgan Kropa, Marketing Manager, who shared some of the company’s history and offerings with us.
At InterTest, Inc., partners are heard and understood first. Then the utmost effort is put into creating a comprehensive solution that best suits and even exceeds expectations. Headquartered in Columbia, New Jersey, the company’s global reach is vast and it is especially proud of the fact that it has sold equipment on every continent except Antarctica – although its equipment has been used in operations on the icy continent.
Whether its customers need custom-engineered lenses or the standard kind, InterTest, Inc. helps us to see the world in new ways with next-generation camera systems and remote vision inspection equipment (RVIs) that ease industrial inspections, surveillance and many other previously impossible tasks. As an accomplished problem solver, the company is trusted by many to provide practical solutions to some really interesting imagery problems – like fitting lenses in robots bound for Antarctica or supplying point of view (POV) cameras tough enough to keep the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) spectators in the loop on the track as they show entire races from the vantage point of the surface of the track as cars pass over at high speeds. It is also a proud supplier of cameras to Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL).
“InterTest, Inc. prides itself on putting eyes where human eyes cannot or should not go,” says Bill. As such, the company also designs and is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to a number of specialized clients. Starting out as a testing and RVI equipment retailer, the team quickly realized its capacity for problem-solving and manufacturing. Its first venture into this field eventually developed into a pilot range of standard product lines that served a number of industries and are still available for purchase today.
InterTest, Inc. prides itself on surpassing other related products currently available in the greater market. With advanced engineering and manufacturing technology and capabilities that are unique to the company, its service level is second to none. “We tailor our products to very targeted industry niches that don’t have a lot of optical inspection solutions, to begin with,” Will explains. “For instance, in the aviation industry, customers inspect a multitude of aircraft surfaces like jet engine turbines, which require very intricate and unique inspection equipment. No other company in the world can design, manufacture and support an optical solution for that very specific application.” Here, ‘off-the-shelf’ equipment does not quite do the job, as bespoke solutions are applied to specialized areas that depend on optical instruments to ultimately keep people and property safe.
When it comes to doing business with this team of creative thinkers, customers are met with talent, experience, resources, and knowledge that spans a number of industries. With over 35 years in design and manufacturing, even the most complex projects are always in good hands at InterTest. Starting out in a basement in 1981 as representatives for a manufacturer in NDT, or Non-Destructive-Testing, the team aligned themselves with some big names in the ultrasound, eddy current and remote vision industries. They slowly became involved in problem-solving in aviation, the petrochemical and power generation industries, heavy industry, the military and more. Word spread fast about the team’s successes and soon their specialized knowledge started paving the way.
“I enjoyed getting to know a number of truly brilliant people. Actually getting to know rockets scientists is fun. My engineering education and deep curiosity converged to make this the perfect job for me,” says Bill. The team started investing in more talent and as corporate America started losing much of its in-house talent in the 1980s, InterTest, Inc. scooped up a number of brilliant minds, enabling the company to accept many new opportunities and design and manufacture its own products.
The company boasts a number of very popular products. One of its bestsellers, the iShot® Xblock® Camera series, delivers fantastic video picture under harsh environmental pressures. These OEM zoom block cameras are inside industrial housings that work well for power generation inspections, license plate recognition, surveillance, and manufacturing quality assurance – to name a few areas. Other bestsellers are small diameter borescopes – scopes thinner than 2.0 mm that can be used through an eyepiece or a video display in a variety of industries. Also, amongst its top sellers is its SeeUV® line which is widely used in engine and structural inspections in the international aviation industry. Here, ultraviolet lighting is combined with special image sensors and optics to improve the visibility of defects in turbine blades and engines, ultimately keeping aircraft in the air and passengers safe.
Innovation is a fundamental aspect of InterTest, Inc.’s phenomenal success and the team is focused on staying ahead of industry trends. As a result of their ongoing research and development, this team has no shortage of new releases. InterTest, Inc.’s next big release is a tough, tinier-than-a-pencil, high definition camera in a 7mm package. This next-generation camera is made to withstand extreme conditions and can be used in a range of fields. “These cameras are a game changer in this type of instrument,” says Bill. “Also, LEDs have transformed how we approach the lighting challenge presented in any remote vision application. They enable inspections on equipment like heat exchangers that weren’t possible before.”
In order to bring this innovation and technology to life, InterTest, Inc. relies on a cohesive team of employees and state-of-the-art facilities. Most of sales and marketing along with manufacturing, administration and engineering occur at InterTest, Inc.’s 12,000 square foot corporate headquarters located in Columbia, New Jersey. Other sales and marketing operations are based in remote locations worldwide. Engineering is responsible for design, prototyping and consultation, and it also fulfills a number of support functions. Its manufacturing divisions provide machining, finishing, assembly and testing and a robust supply chain provides the numerous specialty items and talents required to build InterTest, Inc.’s sophisticated camera technology. Although most of the company’s products are sold in the United States, 20 percent of its merchandise is sold internationally.
The company has enjoyed record revenues in 2017 and the trend has continued throughout 2018, with similar outcomes expected in the last quarter of the year. With such big growth comes big change, and InterTest, Inc. is equipped to adapt and evolve with its market’s growing needs. This trusted supplier’s reputation for taking care of details is as strong as ever. “We have made new appointments in the marketing and engineering departments as part of our continual improvement,” says Will. Morgan adds that the company is strongly focused on becoming increasingly more accessible across international e-commerce markets. Part of achieving this is ensuring that its website is ready for business, which is why a new state-of-the-art site is set to be launched later this year.
“This will be a major step in propelling our online platform into the future to increase our presence and accessibility to customers,” says Morgan. Of course, its sterling consultation services will remain as big a part of the company’s offering as ever – even with its growing e-commerce sales. This means that InterTest, Inc. will still research and innovate brand new and interesting solutions to common camera and optic-related equipment.
One of its earliest yet most interesting projects was when the team had to come up with a camera unit set inside a 35-gallon drum that was to be submerged. The unit was requested by a film team who had the opportunity to work with the Russian Academy of Sciences on studying Beluga whales in the White Sea along the northern Russian coast. The production house planned to sell its film to a couple of large international networks. Time was limited as there was only a short period of access during the mid-summer months when the whales gathered. The goal was substantial: to draw together views from four wide-angle cameras and stitch them together much like IMAX features are done today. The InterTest, Inc. team spent many hours and days laboring over this new invention and even tested it in a swimming pool at one of their homes. Buoyancy was a problem that they had to overcome and so was keeping it watertight with all the electricity and other equipment inside. They also fitted one of the monitors on the outside and streamed one camera’s image to this external screen. Resources, time and knowledge were all a challenge, but they pushed through and the production house managed to capture fantastic footage of the whales looking at themselves on the exterior monitor.
One of the prize discoveries the scientists made – and the film team captured – was the creatures’ intelligence. The peaceful mammals enjoyed looking at themselves – not something anyone was expecting at all. Since then, the company has invented many such custom solutions with great success.
In fact, InterTest, Inc. once received an Emmy in the 90s for “technical achievement in point of view cameras in sports broadcasting” – thanks to its RopeCam. This camera gave viewers a brand new and unique point of view on barefoot skiing. The team fitted the camera into the rope, something which had never been done before.
Of course, such success is driven by people and the InterTest, Inc. team of 32 staff, six contractors and other respected associates are very close-knit. “We have a real sense of community and family here – not only inside the building but also within our local community. Our company morale is splendidly positive because each employee knows what value they bring to the table – and management reminds them regularly,” says Bill. Here, employees enjoy health care, 401(k) plans and profit-sharing benefits as well as some seriously fun times together, like their beloved company cookouts in summer.
For the InterTest, Inc. team, the secret to success is in loving what they do, and Bill generously shared some takeaway messages with us: “Find something you like doing, something you can be passionate about. Become an expert. Associate with smart, talented, and energetic people. Apply this to an area where there is value in the result,” says Bill. And very importantly, he adds: “Unless it is a hobby or missionary work, price it on the value of the solution, not the cost.”
As one can judge by its happy and engaged workforce, the company’s leadership style is exemplary and team members are encouraged to aim high. The stakes and standards are high and with a lot of space and support from management, achievement and innovation are what spur them on. “Our people have carried themselves and the company far. We are very proud of their incredible contributions to InterTest, Inc.,” says Bill. For management, its trust in its workforce is part of why customers are loyal to the company – in addition to the company’s consistent quality, of course.
To that end, InterTest, Inc. is registered with the International Standards Organization, where it holds an ISO 9001:2015 certification. It is also a very proud Sony® Authorized System Integrator and Distributor and is associated with a great number of industry giants, including the American Society for Nondestructive Testing, the International Society for Optical Engineering, the American Society for Metals, the American Society for Quality Control, the American Association of Corrosion Engineers, and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineers, amongst others.
While the company’s focus is on quality, innovation and customer service, it holds a much broader view of goodwill. InterTest, Inc. is a generous contributor within its local community and believes that community safety and wellbeing are of paramount importance. The company also makes significant financial contributions to its local volunteer services like the Fire and Rescue Squads, North Warren Regional Middle and High School, Boy Scouts of America, and other community groups.
With the increased ability to solve its industry’s challenges along with the ever-declining cost of technology manufacturing, InterTest, Inc. is very positive about its future. The internet and new website is spurring massive foreign growth This new, broader audience is part of what brings about a drop in production costs, which in turn solidifies improved margins.
“Our future is bright,” says Bill. “We are only limited by our energy, skills and its application,” says Bill. From our conversation, it is clear that there is an incredible drive in this company, which gives me good reason to believe that domestic and international growth is what we’ll find next time we check in with this team.